Woman standing at a lectern with a presentation screen in the background.

Rare opportunity: Radiation Therapist Sumie Namba presenting at ESTRO in May.

Sumie presents study at ESTRO Conference in Glasgow

Jun 06, 2024

Radiation therapist, Sumie Namba, capped off her year as a project officer with an invitation to present her work at a conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in May.

The European Society for Radiotherapy Oncology (ESTRO) accepted Sumie’s submission on surface-guided radiation therapy (SGRT) which tracks accuracy in positioning breast cancer patients for treatments, without using tattoos or daily imaging.

SGRT uses a three-dimensional light and camera system to map the surface of the patient’s skin to ensure they are in the same position for each treatment. Traditionally, the setup process involved giving patients small tattoos and using lasers to align their positions.

For some patients, the tattoos are a daily visual reminder of their cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“The tattoos are visible when patients wear swimwear and for some people, tattoos are not something they want,” said Sumie.

“While (SGRT) isn’t a new technique, it’s relatively new in Australia. We have been tattoo-less for breast and chest patients at MNCCI since the start of 2023, but no study has detailed its accuracy in depth. When we went tattoo-less, patients would have daily cone beam CTs to ensure they were aligned correctly.

“With the system using tattoos, patients could have weekly scans to keep track of their positioning and ensure it was within a tolerance of five millimeters.

“We didn’t have local proof that SGRT set-up was accurate enough to move to weekly scans for our patients without tattoos.

“Our study showed that if we did weekly imaging on the breast-only patients, 95.8 per cent of the time, patients would be set up within tolerance using SGRT.

“We now do cone beam CTs daily for the first four days and, if the set-ups are all within tolerance, we move to weekly.

“Cone beams take time and it’s extra radiation. Although it’s a small dose, we don’t want to expose our patients to radiation if it’s not necessary.”

When she submitted her study to ESTRO, Sumie did not expect to be invited to present in person. At best, she thought the society may display a poster of the study at the conference.

“It was very exciting and interesting to see what different departments around the world are doing in radiation oncology and what we may incorporate.

“SGRT use varies. Some departments use it but still use tattoos – moving away from tattoos can be daunting, but we found it’s quite straightforward and simplifies the process for us and the patient.

“It was nice to share that we tracked and found our imaging protocols and accuracy were at a very high level. There were lots of questions at the end of the presentation, which was great to see people so interested.”

Sumie credited the specialist teams at MNCCI Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour for their support during the study and rolling out the change in technique including Regina Stephen, Hannah Thompson, Abbey Bayliss, Tony Venning, Matthew Hoffman, Sarah Edwards, Jacqueline Mixon, Bowie Mackenzie, and Jared Steel.

“Hanna Thompson, Abbey Bayliss, Jared Steel, doctors Carmen Hansen and Tom Shakespeare are working with me on a study paper and we hope it will be published in a journal sometime soon,” Sumie said.

“There are only a handful of departments in Australia offering tattoo-less radiotherapy. The fact that we can offer this in a regional area is pretty cool.”


Woman standing in front of a large poster of a man playing bagpipes.

A wee walk in the highlands, almost: MNCCI’s Sumie Namba at ESTRO.

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